Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Saving Africa by N Timoleon Amessa

Saving Africa by N Timoleon Amessa
Published in the UK by Matador in June 2017.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Saving Africa investigates the root causes of underdevelopment in developing countries, particularly in post-colonial Africa. It also identifies the factors that inhibit progress: the cultural barriers to development; the political instability and the inappropriate choice of political system that has hampered the development of so many African countries; the economic problems plaguing Africa, especially in the three main sectors of the economy: agriculture, industry, and the service economy. 

It looks at the effect on the social life of African people and cultural factors, such as the difficulty in reconciling traditional customs and practices with the western way of life, and considers how the economy and political systems currently in place add to these problems. 

It also uses the case of Cote D’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) as a prime example, and demonstrates how the legacy of colonial rule, and the scale of corruption among the political elite, coupled with lack of education, poor infrastructure, and rampant inefficiencies that constitute the problematic life in every African country. 

In response to this, it sets out a blueprint, a comprehensive roadmap for evolution. If implemented with commitment it will allow the people of Africa to enjoy the benefits of living in a modern society, with a working economy, a stable political system, and a culture that both preserves the best of its traditions and customs, and takes advantage of the opportunities offered by Western society. 

Saving Africa shows how one can transform the heavy legacy of centuries of colonial rule from a contemporary curse into a real future for Africa and its people.

I was disappointed by this book because, although it starts out with a few interesting-looking ideas, it doesn't really progress from that point. Amessa has strong opinions on the political direction Africa in its entirety should take however actually getting to those root ideas in this book is a slog. The writing is very long-winded. Every opinion is repeated several times and Amessa seems to continually turn in circles so the book is at least twice as long as it feels that it should be! I would have liked facts and statistics to back up the author's statements too. Sweeping untrue generalisations such as there being no African entrepreneurs - I have lent to dozens via Kiva - or that Britain is far more welcoming to immigrants than France - has he read the Daily Mail? - led me to doubt other of Amessa's assertions. I did struggle through pretty much to the end of Saving Africa, but am not convinced that I am much the wiser on this subject as a result.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by N Timolean Amessa / Politics / Books from the Ivory Coast

Monday, 26 February 2018

A Matter Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance + Giveaway

A Matter Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance
(The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance, Book 1) 
Published in America by Golden Bear Creative Works in April 2013.

I read A Matter Of Temperance back in 2014. I am transferring my review over here now to coincide with Ichabod's Spotlight and Giveaway of The Two Faces Of Temperance, the tenth book in this series, which I featured on Literary Flits a couple of weeks ago. Scroll down for a second chance to enter the Giveaway!

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Hello, is anyone there?”
“This is Ichabod Temperance, transmitting from the year 1875.”
“Do you read me?”
“Oh my Goodness! We've got trouble, y'all!”
“Ever since that strange comet passed our world, not only have there been more than just an overwhelming amount of steam and spring inventions popping up all over Earth, but there also have been uncanny monster sightings as well! Well, almost sightings, as these inter-dimensional, over-legged, eyeball-clustered beasties are nearly invisible to the human eye! That is where my own enhanced inventiveness has gotten me into misadventure as I alone have created a device that allows me to see the hippo-sized craw-daddies.”
“Maybe Fate had a hand in my goggle development, for it led to my meeting the most beautiful girl in the world. Now it's up to me and Miss Plumtartt to save our planet from being gobbled up gone!”

Ichabod Temperance undertakes a fantastical adventure when he first rescues one Persephone Plumtartt from clutches of an invisible otherworldly monster. Our hero has a knack for this kind of chivalry as he continues to repeat the feat, firstly across a slightly-geographically-redesigned Europe, and then across the rest of the world. We read his story from two viewpoints, both his and also Miss Plumtartt's. Their characters are not strongly defined so as the chapters rush past, I didn't always know which one was narrating. It doesn't really matter as this book is all about action. Villains are cartoonish and allies are named but not created as defined people. On reflection, this is a little disappointing as I would have invested more in the quest had more words been expended on character rather than fighting. I liked the initial inventions which are perfectly steampunk, however as the book goes along, more and more items are invented but not described so imagining what the author means is tricky. Also the perils are often surprisingly easily despatched and occasionally seem thrown in for no apparent reason - why were the sirens included? Why the pearl?

For me, A Matter of Temperance felt a little unfinished, but it's a good debut. It is a fun fast-paced romp and I went on to enjoy reading more of this series.

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Open internationally until the 4th March, the prize is one signed paperback copy of The Two Faces Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance which will be sent directly to the winner by the author himself.
Good luck!

Signed book - The Two Faces of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ichabod Temperance / Steampunk fiction / Books from America

Friday, 23 February 2018

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt
Published in the UK by Granta in September 2015.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the bucolic hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, he is a compulsive liar and a melancholy weakling. When Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, forbidding castle of the Baron Von Aux he meets thieves, madmen, aristocrats, and a puppy. He also meets Klara, a delicate beauty who is, unfortunately, already involved with an exceptionally handsome partisan soldier. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery and cold-blooded murder in which every aspect of human behaviour is laid bare for our hero to observe. Lucy must stay safe, and protect his puppy, because someone or something is roaming the corridors of the castle late at night. 

Undermajordomo Minor is a triumphant ink-black comedy of manners by the Man Booker shortlisted author of The Sisters Brothers. It is an adventure story, and a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behaviour with a brandy tart, but above all it is a love story. And Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

Dave bought a copy of Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt as we both enjoyed his previous novels, The Sisters Brothers and Ablutions. I got to 'borrow' it through Amazon's Household Sharing setting for Kindle ebooks. All three of DeWitt's novels are very different and Undermajordomo Minor is almost a fairytale in its style. The story centres around teenager Lucien Minor, who is known as Lucy, as he starts in his new job as a man-of-all-work at a distant castle. I am not sure exactly when or where Undermajordomo Minor is meant to be set and it doesn't really matter. Lucy travels by train, but other elements of DeWitt's world could be medieval Grimm. The castle has the same kind of fairytale timelessness. Its weirdness and the proximity of a nearby village frequently reminded me of the wonderful Gormenghast novels although Mervyn Peake wasn't named amongst other authors in an afterword.

There are some intriguing characters in Undermajordomo Minor. Lucy's mother at the beginning of the book is only to pleased to be rid of him and it was refreshing to read a farewell scene without any gushing emotion. Lucy's attempts to impress his ex-flame Marina are fun, and I thought the thief Memel was one of the most interesting creations. The mad Baron is simply bizarre. None of the portrayals I thought were particularly deep, but this is in keeping with the novel's style, and there are some fascinating descriptive passages which really brought scenes to life. I found it easy to envisage scenes such as the train carriage, the castle interiors, the glorious banquet and the Very Deep Hole. I didn't think Undermajordomo was quite in the same league as DeWitt's previous books, but it is still a very enjoyable read.

Etsy Find!
by Olive And Lotte in
Nottingham, England

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Patrick deWitt / Fairytales / Books from Canada

Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Wife's Tale by Aida Edemariam

The Wife's Tale by Aida Edemariam
Published in the UK by Fourth Estate today, the 22nd February 2018.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A hundred years ago, a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Before she was ten years old, Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior, an ambitious poet-priest. Over the next century her world changed beyond recognition. She witnessed Fascist invasion and occupation, Allied bombardment and exile from her city, the ascent and fall of Emperor Haile Selassie, revolution and civil war. She endured all these things alongside parenthood, widowhood and the death of children.

The Wife’s Tale is an intimate memoir, both of a life and of a country. In prose steeped in Yetemegnu’s distinctive voice and point of view, Aida Edemariam retells her grandmother’s stories of a childhood surrounded by proud priests and soldiers, of her husband’s imprisonment, of her fight for justice – all of it played out against an ancient cycle of festivals and the rhythms of the seasons. She introduces us to a rich cast of characters – emperors and empresses, scholars and nuns, Marxist revolutionaries and wartime double agents. And through these encounters she takes us deep into the landscape and culture of this many-layered, often mis-characterised country – and the heart of one indomitable woman.

Despite it now being well over thirty years since the infamous Michael Buerk report that showed Ethiopia's terrible famine to the world, those are still the only images that flash into my mind whenever the country is mentioned. There is so much more to Ethiopian culture and history though and I now have a wider appreciation of daily life there through the twentieth century thanks to The Wife's Tale: Aida Edemariam's biography of her grandmother, Yetemegnu.

Yetemegnu lived through ninety-eight years of wonderful and terrible times in Ethiopia. She was married off at just eight years old, making lifelong vows with no real understanding of the words she spoke, to a priest twenty years older than herself. Yetemegnu came of age already isolated in her husband's house. Initially a frightened child, cowed by his jealousy and violence, her early married life seems to have been little more than domestic slavery with only perhaps her religious faith to call her own. Ridiculously long days spent in non-stop cooking, often with her baby strapped to her back, and of not being allowed to leave her house for even a moment. Edemariam tells us of these years through the stories her grandmother told her so there is little critical judgement. It's more an acceptance of tradition with no alternative choice for Yetemegnu, yet I found it interesting that as this young woman begins to become stronger within herself, one of the first actions she struggles for is education for her daughters as well as her sons.

Ethiopia changes almost beyond recognition within the space of Yetemegnu's life and, as readers, we get to see this overwhelming transition through her eyes including her confusion at new practices and her embracing of some new technologies. She becomes a woman to be widely respected and an inspirational example for women everywhere through her perseverance and dignity. I loved recognising many passages in this biography that must have been her own words repeated often to her children and grandchildren. These phrases and mottoes really bring out the truth that this story recounts the life of a real woman, not a fictional invention, and I love that I was able to learn about her through this book.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Aida Edemariam / Biography and memoir / Books from Ethiopia

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Dip In My Ocean by A G Stranger

A Dip In My Ocean by A G Stranger
Self published in July 2017.

A for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author via the Authors Needing Reviews Goodreads group

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ahmed Ghrib ( Pen name: A.G. Stranger) is a Tunisian engineering student, writer and amateur guitarist. He is the author of " He wrote Lily ". This a collection of his poems that englobe different themes ranging from love, heartbreak to life and healing. Different colorful backgrounds on which the poems were written have been carefully chosen; The powerful sceneries will help you not just "dip" in the writer's "ocean" but rather immerse yourself in the depth his words and their meaning.

A short read at just forty-four pages, A Dip In My Ocean is nonetheless a lovely little book that poetically charts the course of a relationship from deep love to the pain of separation, despair to acceptance and the overcoming of grief. The poems are grouped thematically so the reader can either dip into the appropriate theme as wanted or do as I did and read the whole book effectively as an epic poem telling a story.

As well as Ghrib's words, I liked that this is also an illustrated volume with photographed scenes behind the poetry on every page. These show hand hearts or ocean vistas and feature colour palettes appropriate to the mood of the poetry. It's a lovely idea that I think works well and raises A Dip In My Ocean from poetry to an art-poetry book that might well make a good gift for a friend in need of emotional support at the end of a relationship.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by A G Stranger / Poetry / Books from Tunisia

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Order by John Mayer

The Order (The Parliament House Books #2) by John Mayer
Self published in November 2015.

Where to buy this book:

Add The Order to your Goodreads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brogan McLane QC uncovers the despicable deeds of The Earl of Marchion who owes £7.8m in Death Duties and who thought he could kidnap an 11 year old African girl and use her to smuggle and cheat his way out of paying those taxes. Hiding in his world of privilege, he didn't reckon on the strongest ties of all: the love of a new mother and the legal skills of her husband Brogan McLane in Parliament House.

The story begins in an African forest with a desperate father trying to save his children from being butchered. When faced with no other choice, he sells the children to a diamond smuggler.

Through dark days of prostitution and slavery in Edinburgh one of those children comes under the protective wings of Mr and Mrs McLane. The battle between justice and injustice rages for months until, finally faced with deportation of the child they've come to love, McLane has an idea of how to play a legal Ace card.

I read The Order almost back-to-back after its predecessor, the first Parliament House book The Trial. In their timeline however about two years have passed for Brogan McLane since he managed to overcome a nefarious plot to wrongfully imprison him for murder. Now McLane is called upon to save a little girl, Ababuo, who was trafficked to Scotland with a rare diamond in her stomach before being abandoned.

Dealing as it does with the issue of child trafficking makes The Order a far more emotional read than I thought The Trial was. I believe elements of the novel are based in the sad reality of a case with which Mayer himself was involved - both author and fictional Advocate are specialists in Child Abduction Law. Ababuo herself is sensitively portrayed and I really felt for this child lost thousands of miles from her home and with no one who even knew what her language was, let alone how to communicate in it. A terrifying prospect for anyone.

Much of The Order becomes very personal to McLane and, despite enjoying the story as a whole, I did sometimes wonder if the narrative contortions needed to bring everything so close to home detracted from its plausibility. That said, this is otherwise an engrossing and exciting tale. We again have the juxtaposition of affluent Edinburgh society against McLane's mostly-legal Glasgow cronies, this time with a high-technology flash too. Karla's scenes added a lightness and McLane's legal twisting is again fun to follow.

Meet The Author

John Mayer was born in Glasgow, Scotland, a war-zone where violence and poverty reigned. In 1963 when he heard The Beatles on Radio Caroline, he decided to change his life. Aged 14 he left school because, in his opinion, he wasn't being taught. For the next year, in all weathers, he cycled 9 miles to and 9 miles from the Mitchell Library in central Glasgow where he devoured books of all kinds and began to understand what more the world had to offer. He became an Apprentice engineer, and soon was teaching men twice his age. In the early 1970s his love of music led him to set up as a Record Producer. He built his own record company trading in 14 countries. After a disheartening court battle with global giants, he left the business world and went back into further education at the University of Edinburgh, becoming an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. There he acted for the downtrodden and desperate as well as Greenpeace International. His specialism was in fighting international child abduction.

John has written non-fiction, legal texts and articles; broadcast to tens of millions of people on US and UK radio, appeared on TV and in print media. Since retiring from the Law, John has enjoyed using his years of very colourful experience to create The Parliament House Books series.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Mayer / Crime fiction / Books from Scotland

Monday, 19 February 2018

Necessities by Boyd Taylor + #Giveaway

Necessities by Boyd Taylor (Book #4 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series)
Book Details:

Category: Adult Fiction, 225 pages
Genre: Suspense Crime Fiction
Publisher: Katherine Brown Press
Release date: December 5, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (There is a murder and allusions to sex. Some mild cursing.)

Where to buy this book:

Add Necessities to your Goodreads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via iRead Book Tours

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Donnie Ray Cuinn returns to Austin to defend a war hero accused of murder. David Lewis lost both legs in Iraq, but he has overcome his nightmares and his disabilities by sheer willpower. He has learned to run and to box and is a successful newspaperman with a beautiful wife and son. Now the nightmares have returned and he must stand trial for murder. With twists that never seem to end, this gripping legal thriller is filled with suspense and indelibly drawn characters dealing with love and betrayal.

This is the second of Boyd Taylor's Donnie Cuinn crime thrillers that I have read and I think that this fourth book in the series, Necessities, was even stronger than the first book, Hero. I now need to go back and read the intervening two stories as well!

Necessities is split into a book of two halves and I loved Taylor's audacity in scarcely even mentioning Cuinn until the second half of the tale. Instead, we start out by following and really getting to know disabled war veteran David Lewis. A strong and determined man, we still get to see his weaker side and I enjoyed reading about how he finds himself in a seemingly perfect marriage that is perfect to his wife for surprisingly different reasons. Taylor frequently turns established genre conventions on their heads. His characters are completely real and believable, but unexpected within the crime genre and I think this gives an extra lift to the storylines too. If you're trying for a greater number of diverse reads this year, Boyd Taylor books are certainly worth looking in to.

I don't want to say too much about the storyline in this review because I just know I would inadvertently spoil a twist or denouement for someone. Enough to say, I think, that I rarely give crime series novels the full five stars, but Necessities absolutely deserves every single one!

To read further reviews, please visit Boyd Taylor's page on iRead Book Tours.

Watch the book trailer for Necessities (Book #4 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn Series):

Meet the Author:

BOYD TAYLOR lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and their Havanese dog Toby. Necessities is the fourth novel in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series. In a former life, Boyd was a lawyer and a corporate officer. A native of Temple, Texas, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in government and an LL.B. from the law school.

Boyd's first novel "Hero" was prescient in its story about fake news. His second novel, "The Antelope Play," dealt with drug trafficking in the Texas Panhandle, an unfortunately accurate forecast. The third, "The Monkey House", involved commercial development of a large green space in the center of Austin, all too familiar to Austin residents. Whether his upcoming novel "Necessities" predicts future events with the accuracy of the earlier books remains to be seen.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends March 7, 2018

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Boyd Taylor / Thrillers / Books from America

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Breathe Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Breathe Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Published in America by Unnerving in October 2017.

B for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author via the Authors Needing Reviews Goodreads Group

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It's a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you'll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can't find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

Breathe Breathe isn't a particularly long book - it's only about 175 pages - and I sat down expecting to read it within a few hours. However it actually took me over a week of dipping into the poems and stories in order to be able to finish it. Don't be mistaken in thinking I didn't enjoy the read. I did! (Although perhaps 'enjoy' isn't the best word to choose.) I found the intense emotion difficult to sustain so, instead of my usual cover-to-cover devouring, Breathe Breathe has been a process of reading one or two poems or stories and then taking time to think them over before returning. It's rare that a collection of short works gets through to me so deeply. All praise to Al-Mehairi for revealing so much of her literary vulnerability in this way.

As with any collection of course, there were pieces that I connected with more strongly than others so I am going to pick out a few of my favourites to mention here. If (when!) you buy this book, be sure to linger over the Fear poems The Heirloom and Earl Grey Tea, and the Pain poem Nature's Salve. I loved the imagery and sense of menace in these. As a woman, I found the short stories to be essentially horror tales. Occasional clunky dialogue aside, I loved their chilling atmospheres and Dandelion Yellow especially is excellent - and heart-breaking.

Breathe Breathe should probably come with a series of trigger warnings. Many of the poems and stories speak of gender violence and abusive relationships and Al-Mehairi isn't coy with her phrases. Sensitive and still-damaged souls should perhaps get a friend to read this through first. Personally I found the read disturbing and powerful and memorable.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Poetry / Books from America

Friday, 16 February 2018

The Poison Of Woedenwoud by K Ferrin + Giveaway

The Poison Of Woedenwoud by K Ferrin
Published in America on the 12th February 2018.

Where to buy this book:

Add The Poison Of Woedenwoud to your Goodreads

Magic is draining from the world threatening everything, the tatters of her own family, the warlocks, and the Mari alike. Ling and her companions search desperately for the key to ending it all, but warlocks dog their every step. Meanwhile, Ling, isolated and afraid, struggles against a rising tide of darkness far more threatening than anything in the Darkling Sea.

Meet the Author
K. Ferrin spends her days surrounded by engineers, technology, and humming machinery, but her evenings are steeped in magic, myth, and adventure. She writes fantasy, loves gardening, and eats way too much pie. She lives at the foot of the Colorado Rockies with her husband and two pooches.

Her novels include the stand alone YA fantasy novel Magicless, as well as Across the Darkling Sea, and A Dying Land, the first two books of a series.

Author links:
WebsiteTwitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 22nd February, the prizes are two $25 Amazon gift cards.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by K Ferrin / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Curiouser and Curiouser by Melanie Karsak + Excerpt + Giveaway

Curiouser and Curiouser by Melanie Karsak
Published in America in July 2017.

Add Curiouser And Curiouser to your Goodreads

To save the Hatter, Alice must work with the one man she despises so much that she might still love him.

Alice thought she’d turned over a new leaf. No more working for Jabberwocky. No more making deals with the ruthless Queen of Hearts. No more hanging around The Mushroom with tinkers, tarts, scoundrels, and thieves in London’s criminal underbelly. But she’d been bonkers to dream.

Hatter’s reckless behavior leads Alice back to the one person she never wanted to see again, Caterpillar. Pulled into Caterpillar’s mad schemes, Alice must steal a very big diamond from a very royal lady. The heist is no problem for this Bandersnatch. But protecting her heart from the man she once loved? Impossible.

Sometimes love is mad.


I approached the guards cautiously, stopping just short of the entryway.
They looked from me to one another, unsure what to do.
I stared at William who toked on a hookah pipe, blowing a ring of smoke in the air.
The guards shifted uncomfortably.
William, who’d been lounging on a chaise, sat up and looked out at me through the sheer fabric.
He smirked then leaned forward. “Who are you?”
His question silenced those around him. Everyone knew who I was.
“When I woke up this morning, I was Alice.”
He rose then moved closer. “But who are you now?”
“That depends. Who are you? Which Alice is here depends on your answer.”
He came to the curtain. “Well then, that makes it hard to say.”
“I’m sure it does, given how good you are at betraying your true nature.” I was trying to keep a lid on my feelings but was failing miserably. As he drew closer, I smelled the sweet aromas of jasmine and sandalwood that always clung to him.
“You’re one to talk. So, what does Alice from this morning want?”
I frowned at him.
“Don’t get too frustrated,” he replied then pulled the curtain open, beckoning me inside, “or the other Alice might peek out. Come.”
I entered the semi-private enclosure. Inside, I spotted William’s chief bodyguard, the Knave. A tart lay naked, asleep in an opium stupor, on a chaise nearby.
I nodded to the Knave.
“Alice,” he said with a soft smile. I caught the lilt of his Irish accent in his voice. His real name, of course, was Jack. He’d been friends with William and me since we were young. As was the habit in the industry, Jack went by a pseudonym. If someone ratted you out, it was better that they had no idea what your real name might be. It’s a lot harder to track a man named Knave than it was Jack O’Toole or Caterpillar than it was to find William Charleston.
“Have a seat, Alice from this morning,” William said.
I sat on the chaise, gently pushing aside the legs of the intoxicated strumpet.
“What brings you here?” he asked, rubbing a thoughtful finger across his chin. He’d grown a short, neatly-kept beard since I saw him last. It looked very handsome.
“Rabbit stole a pocket watch from my employer. I want it back.”
“What does that have to do with me?” William asked.
“Cake?” one of William’s girls offered, holding out a tray on which sat a colorful selection of petit fours.
I looked down at the small treats. I could smell the aroma of the frosting, nearly taste the sweet confections in a glance. I could see the game was truly afoot. They were my favorite. I raised an eyebrow at William who smiled.
The stubborn part of me wanted to tell William, and the girl, to sod off. But the part of me who hadn’t tasted strawberry frosted, vanilla-sweetened, and raspberry-and crème-filled cake in months could say no such thing. I lifted a small cake and popped it into my mouth, feeling annoyed and enraptured all in the same moment. I closed my eyes, savoring the taste. They’d come from my favorite baker. William had remembered. Once more, angry and elated feelings swept over me.
“Drink?” the girl then offered.
I opened my eyes to see the girl was holding a bottle of absinthe.
“Alice isn’t the type. Do you want some tea?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“Run off,” he told the serving girl, waving her away.
The girl turned to go, but before she could leave, I reached out and grabbed just one more petit four: pistachio and chocolate. I popped it into my mouth.
“I’m glad you like them,” William said, grinning at me.
The warmth of his gaze made me angry. He didn’t have any right being this nice to me. “The pocket watch?” I asked after swallowing the last bite.
“Alice from the morning is very business-oriented. Right, then. What of it?”
“I hate it when you play coy. And you’re not very good at it. Rabbit entered this tent not a moment before me. I want that watch. Must I remind you that we have an understanding? You don’t tangle in my affairs, remember? It was agreed upon.”
“You certainly are Alice from this morning,” he said with a frown. “Not that the outfit didn’t give it away. Crisp white apron you have there, Alice. But the blue maid’s dress brings out your eyes.”
“We all wear costumes, don’t we, Caterpillar and his Knave?” I said, casting a glance at Jack. “Is he Jack or is he the Knave? Are you Caterpillar or are you William? Hard to tell what’s truth and what’s fiction, isn’t it?”
William smirked then turned to Jack. “Find Rabbit.”
“He shouldn’t be far. You waved him off just a moment ago,” I said.
Chuckling under his breath, Jack left.
“Why did you bring me here?” I asked.
“Bring you here?” William replied.
Now I was getting irritated. “Yes. Why did you bring me here?”
“Chance brings you here.”
“There is no such thing. Rabbit would never steal from me or mine unless you told him to.”
“William,” I replied, a warning in my voice.
“Let’s just say that a pocket watch brought you here,” he said.

Meet the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melanie Karsak is the author of The Airship Racing Chronicles, The Harvesting Series, The Burnt Earth Series, The Celtic Blood Series and Steampunk Fairy Tales. A steampunk connoisseur, zombie whisperer, and heir to the iron throne, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.

Author links:
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And now for the giveaway!
Open to the US only (sorry) until the 9th March, the prize is an Alice In Wonderland stacking mug set.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Etsy Find!
by The Dressmaker Studio in
the United Kingdom

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Books by Melanie Karsak / Steampunk books / Books from America

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Lettre à Zohra D by Danielle Michel-Chich

Lettre à Zohra D by Danielle Michel-Chich
Published in France by Flammarion in February 2012.

I read this book in French

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Swapped for in the library at Camping Los Madriles, Isla Plana, Spain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lettre à Zohra D. is an autobiographical narrative exploring the author's experience as a child survivor of the 1956 bombing of the Milk Bar café in Algiers, Algeria. The bomb caused Michel-Chich to lose her left leg and killed her grandmother.

As well as simply wanting to practice and improve my French language skills and vocabulary, I hoped that by challenging myself to read some books in French this year I would be able to discover works as yet untranslated into English. I also wanted to find books from countries as yet unrepresented in my WorldReads posts and Lettre à Zohre D absolutely fits the bill. This memoir is written by a woman born and raised in Algeria, who had to emigrate to France when Algeria gained its independence. Aged just five, she survived a terrorist bomb attack although in reading her book I learned why she doesn't appreciate being labelled as a 'survivor'.

Michel-Chich wrote Lettre à Zohre D fifty-five years after the Milk Bar bombing, having spent most of the time in between just getting on with her life and not dwelling on the past. Now a grandmother herself, I love her down-to-earth pragmatism and her sense of humour. Despite starting from a horrific event, this is in no way a depressing memoir to read. Reading about her family's reaction to her injuries was probably the most difficult for me because attitudes to trauma and its treatment were very different in the late 1950s and 1960s. Most interesting though were her thoughts on terrorism as a concept and Zohra D's place in the feminist canon.

From a Learning French perspective, this book wasn't so difficult as to be discouraging although I needed new vocabulary words for the subject area. By the latter stages I was reading reasonably swiftly with rarer dictionary grabbing. The memoir is only just over 100 pages so, even with just reading 5-10 pages a day, I could see myself making progress. It might seem odd to say I enjoyed Lettre à Zohra D because of its theme, but that is the case. I was given lots to think about. Michel-Chich's attitudes and opinions were frequently not what I expected and I like to have my beliefs challenged in this way.

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Books by Danielle Michel-Chich / Biography and memoir / Books from Algeria

Monday, 12 February 2018

Pigeon Street by Mark Fieldsend

Pigeon Street by Mark Fieldsend
Published in the UK by in November 2017.

P for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Mark is donating 50% of the Pigeon Street author royalties to SharingLife Trust, a charity which provides support networks, including a food bank, for people in need in the area around Thame, Oxfordshire, which is where he grew up and now lives with his young family.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Suffering at the hands of a violent intruder, Joseph is forced to confront the unimaginable. His will to survive is tested in the starkest of circumstances, and he learns that every action has consequences, some of which he may not be able to stomach.

Waking up fully clothed is an unnerving recent addition to Allan's regimented daily routine. Further derailed by his desperate search for female companionship, the boundary between habit and derangement becomes increasingly blurred. 

Struggling estate agent Francis has his own share of problems. Dependent on letting out one particular property, his job isn't made any easier by the unsettling behaviour of the occupants in the neighbouring house.

Trying to make sense of post-university life is Leila. As she struggles to maintain her ambition, while trying to find the one thing that will make her happy, events from the past are destined to have their say.

Beginning with an unseen, panic-inducing discovery at a London restaurant, Pigeon Street disturbingly interweaves the stories of its contributors as their lives touch each other in ways that will change everything.

Pigeon Street is unusual for a novel in the way it presents its narrative from four different points of view. The book felt like linked short stories and I thought this helped to increase the suspense because, as well as trying to work out what was happening in the main storyline, I also had to consider how the current character would connect. Fieldsend's evocation of London is great, especially scenes that illustrate Londoners famous aloofness and self-imposed isolation. Moments of humour contrast well with the very dark themes and I appreciated this lightening which prevents Pigeon Street from being a depressing read.

Some characters worked better than others for me. I felt very sorry for Joseph and I liked Leila's self-depreciating honesty. Francis wasn't someone I could strongly empathise with, although I did recognise elements of people I have known in this character. For me, Allan was the most difficult to understand because I felt I needed to know more about his motivation. I didn't know why he made certain choices and this meant I couldn't have a similar degree of emotional investment in his character.

Pigeon Street is a psychological thriller that is almost horror at times. I wouldn't recommend it to overly sensitive readers, but if you like your books to veer towards the darker side of life, you will probably enjoy this.

Etsy Find!
by Amaretto in
Bolton, England

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Books by Mark Fieldsend / Thrillers / Books from England

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Two Faces Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance + Excerpt + Giveaway

The Two Faces Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance
(The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance, Book 10) 
Published in America by Golden Bear Creative Works in October 2016.

"Oh, my Goodness, Miss Plumtartt, there is a fiendish monster at loose in London!”

“Quite so, Mr. Temperance. I say, the villain has the Great City in an uproar, sir.”

“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am, there is murder at our elbow, wherever we turn.”

“The machinations of intrigue threaten to crush us in their merciless gears, eh hem? Yes, One suspects that this adventure may come to be known as ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Icky and Mr. Temperance.”

* A Request by the Author:
Dear Reader, if, perchance, you should come across some drunken rogues in song whilst reading this book, you are strongly encouraged to sing these passages aloud. 
Your cooperation in this matter is sincerely appreciated.

Meet The Author:
Howdy Folks, it's Ichabod.
Once upon a time, Miss Plumtartt and I thought we would have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adventure. I am only familiar with the story through film and television, so I thought I should go back and read the original by Robert Louis Stevenson. This I did and am sorry to report that I did not care for it. This was a shock because i enjoyed 'Treasure island', and 'Kidnapped', also by RLS when I was young. Well, 'Kidnapped' wasn't really that good, but gosh, I am sure I read 'Treasure Island' many times when I was eleven and twelve. I went back and read it again. It was fantastic! 'Treasure Island' still stands up. That was when I realized how I was going to write 'The Two Faces of Temperance'. On the surface, it is the story of Jekyll and Hyde, but secretly, beneath the surface, it is the story of 'Treasure Island'. I have a silly way of writing that not everyone cares for, but I highly recommend 'Treasure Island' for young-minded readers of all ages.
Happy reading!

Standing over five feet, seven inches and weighing in at better than one hundred and thirty pounds, Ichabod Temperance is ‘The Alfalfa Male.’ After lengthy music, karate, and pro-wrestling careers, Ichabod’s involvment with movie stuntwork has led him to write these whimsical, steam-driven adventures. Mr. Temperance and his lovely muse, Miss Persephone Plumtartt, live in Irondale, Alabama, USA, along with their furry pack family.

Author Links
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads


The further I stray from the theater, the more I despair of finding my Ichabod. These lonely cobbled streets echo with my frantic footfalls.

What on Earth can be occurring with Ichabod? He is certainly not himself. I cannot for the life of me imagine his having a part in destroying London Bridge, but his behaviour and soiled suit indicate otherwise.

His work at the Cheapside studio must be associated with these transformative outbursts. Despite his assurances otherwise, I am sure Professor Diddlefudde is...

Hello, what’s this? I perceive a shadowy figure, surreptitiously flitting from one darkened doorway to another behind me. This is a lonely stretch of road. There is still enough distance between us that I have a chance of gaining the security of a public house before this midnight assassin takes me in his grasp.

Nonsense. This would be an unforgivable waste of valuable intelligence.

"Yoo, hoo", I say, "hello there my nocturnal companion. There is no need to skulk about, for I am fully aware of your attempted stealthy observation and clandestine pursuit. Please come forth that we may converse as civilized peoples, eh hem?”

“Eh, no, missus, you see, I saw where you dropped an ear-ring. I was just trying to return it, see?”

“Commendable, but improbable.”

“No, really, here it is Miss Plumtartt.”

“Ah, one sees. You know my name, eh? Very well, then, my suspicions appear proven valid. My conjecture is that you are a midnight murderer; hitman for hire; solicited slayer. In short, my commissioned Kendleworth killer, you are an unscrupulous assassin and I your target of assignation.”

“You’re a smart cookie, Miss Plumtartt. I admire you. Here, I’d like to shake your hand.”

“Yes, quite, and I’d like to take that dagger you hide behind your back and stick it... woah! I say, you are devilishly fast with that blade, Mr.?...”

“Don’t you worry about my name none, you won’t have long to remember it. Yah! Ee-yaw! Yah!”

“Dear me, and here I thought you were a professional. You’ll never get me with those wild slashes, dear fellow. You must learn to enjoin a few stabbing thrusts on occasion as well. That’s it! Hah! Just so, for now I am able to catch and trap your weapon whilst simultaneously forcing you to drop the knife as I twist the excruciatingly painful wrist manipulation into a modified Chinese Puzzle Lock that I just invented.”


“Now then, my mollified mugger, who sent you?”

“Belay your battery, lass, I heave to! You’re breaking my arm!”

“I demand to know the name of your employ-Oh!”

“Got ye’!”

“Oh, I say, I wasn’t prepared for that spring-loaded dagger up your sleeve. Though enough to gain freedom from my grip, that unworthy strike will not be enough to do one such as I.”

“Yeah, I just grazed you, that time, Missy. This time will be for keeps.”

“I daresay you’ll spend time in a keep.”

“Yah! Ee-yaw! Yah! Stand still, will you? You’re just making this harder on your...gulk!”

“I say, my old ‘Gung Foo’ training asserts itself, of itself, eh hem? I trust that the ‘Blooming Lilly’ spin kick to your gaping gorm was to your liking, eh hem?”

“Die, you horrible woman! Yah!”

And with this last blow I am able to throw my would-be executioner over my shoulder whilst securing a safe ‘Monkey Bar’ arm lock.

“Ow-wow-wow-wow-ow! Arr! I surrender! I strike me colours!”

“Be warned, my not-so-good man, this is my final entreaty. Who has sent you on this errand of eradication?”

“Ow! Let me go!”

“Names! Tell...” ~phssst!~ “Oh!” ~cough~ “Oh, dear!” ~cough~ “I say, I am engulfed in a choking, blinding, ball of smoke. These noxious fumes forced upon me are an unmanly maneuver.” ~cough,cough~ “Oh, drat, my prisoner has escaped!”

Hello, what’s this? My assassau’tour has dropped something. It must have occurred when I sent him flying with my Gung Foo ‘Elephant on a See-Saw’ maneuver. It is a small, dark leather bag. I think this item is very old. It is a tobacco pouch. The contents confirm this. This is not a domestic variety of leaf. By the smell, I place this product as coming from the Gulf of Mexico region. This suspicion is confirmed by the cut of the leather and sewing style. I am relatively confident this is a style often associated with the Carri-bean. I believe the artwork was added later. I think this done in the Portuguese style of engraving. Ah, and now I detect a pair of initials, ‘A.S.’ Well, Mr. ‘A.S.’, This clue, when coupled with my impression of your speech patterns make me think you are a rogue man of the sea. Very well, matey, until we meet again. At such time, however, I go now to inspect and dress the wound you have inflicted. I shall not be caught unprepared again.

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Open internationally until the 4th March, the prize is a Signed Copy of The Two Faces Of Temperance which will be sent out directly to the winner by the author. Entry is by way of the Gleam widget below.
Good luck!

Signed book - The Two Faces of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance

Etsy Find!
by Urban Industrial Craft in
California, USA

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Books by Ichabod Temperance / Steampunk fiction / Books from America